The numbers never lie

May 04, 2016

1446739965-R&Rsurveycover_web-2New Recruitment and Retention Survey sheds light on key issues in finding, hiring, and keeping the best talent in the design industry. One thing I enjoy about working here at Zweig Group is that we offer a variety of services and products meant to help firms in the design industry do the best job possible, both internally and externally. We have many publications addressing everything from salary surveys, policies, procedures, and benefits, to recruitment and retention, with everything in between. The data and information we compile helps paint a picture of how your peer firms are doing in the design industry. We compile our surveys to help create benchmarks for achievement and goal setting. We recently completed the 2016 Recruitment & Retention Survey of AEP & Environmental Consulting Firms. We uncovered plenty of great statistics and information that give us a glimpse of where things are going in terms of talent acquisition. This survey applies to a broad audience in the design industry. The largest group, firms from 51 to 200 people, comprised 41 percent of the poll, while the second largest group, firms from 11 to 50 people, comprised 30 percent. Here are five important findings from this report that may affect the way you recruit and retain good people in the future:
  • 55 percent of firms polled have hired an executive search firm in the last two years. This statistic interests me not just because I am a recruiter but because we are starting to see more companies create in-house recruitment teams with one or more full-time recruiters on staff. This approach can benefit larger firms that are trying to keep their cost per hire in line. There will always be a need for recruiters because you may want to pursue someone that you can't because of a peer firm relationship. Trust me these things can be problematic if not handled the right way.
  • If you don't use a recruiter, you will have to figure out a way to get the word out about your open positions. A well-placed job posting can make the difference. According to the design firms polled, 71 percent said the best place to post jobs was on LinkedIn, and, believe it or not, Facebook was second at 22 percent. Career Builder, the Craigslist local job postings, and, round out the top five.
  • I don't find this hard to believe given how prominent LinkedIn has become these past few years. Most recruiters and executive search specialists use LinkedIn as the standard bearer for getting a search off the ground. One of the widest audiences for business people is on LinkedIn and if you are posting a job, why not go to the biggest bulletin board to advertise your opening?
  • Even more interesting is that 57 percent of all activity on LinkedIn is done on a mobile device, according to CEO Reed Hastings. That means companies better get their ads and career sites optimized for mobile viewing. Most in our industry are not set up properly to take advantage of the candidate that wants to search for jobs and interact with companies on their mobile device. We have to embrace the times for they are a changing. And once you find that great candidate, you better make sure you do everything possible to close the deal.
  • Only 53 percent of those polled discuss a counter offer with the job candidate. I was not surprised by this figure. Most firms we come in contact with don't spend time discussing the counter offer, and this is a mistake. Our recruiting team uses a script to discuss the matter with candidates to make sure we have touched on all of their concerns and whether there could be a stumbling block to them making a decision to join our client.
  • You must discuss it early and often. Most firms leave this part of the hiring process up in the air. In the design industry, it's hard enough to find suitable candidates let alone leave things to chance. Companies are not letting go of good employees without a fight.
  • Almost 30 percent of those polled said they have used both contingency and retained recruiters to fill positions. Contingency recruiters don't get paid until they make a placement. Retained recruiters need an upfront retainer for any and all searches done. The contract arrangement can vary from one firm to the next. Retained recruiting in the design industry is still a bit of a secret. Most companies we come across are content to use contingency recruiters but then complain when, a year or two later, those same recruiters raid the candidates they placed. I know, it sounds crazy, but it happens quite a bit. Most retained recruiters create a "hands off" list of client firms that they will not recruit from. We've done this at Zweig Group for almost three decades. If the client is not taken care of, they will go elsewhere.
  • 65 percent of companies polled use an employee referral bonus program. I'm torn about this statistic. Our founder, Mark Zweig, doesn't like employee referral bonus programs for the simple reason that if things don't work out with the referred candidate it creates a negative effect on the employee. Mark said, "You run the risk of alienating and angering the employee and may even create a situation where they work against the new person hired, so they fail." It's Mark's contention that if employees like where they work, they should want to refer others to come onboard without the promise of a referral bonus. I guess it does come down to the culture of the workplace and what works in an organization. And speaking of culture:
  • 71 percent of those polled said that cultural fit was the most important aspect of hiring a candidate. I've written several articles about the importance of culture and how it plays into finding and hiring the best talent. Firms that cut corners in this area can pay the price for their lack of discretion. Firms in the design industry must have a complete handle on their culture. You should know beyond a shadow of a doubt the type of person that will make it in your organization and the type that doesn't stand a chance. Usually, firms cut corners when they've added new projects and need extra people to get the job done. This is the worst time not to be mindful of your organization's culture. You have to make sure you take care of the people already in the organization, and you need to make sure that the people you bring in understand what they are getting involved with. At Zweig Group, we require everyone to be a "Go-Getter" with a positive attitude. We don't have time for negativity or schisms. Take it from me, one bad apple can ruin the whole bunch.
This Recruitment and Retention Survey is not only timely but telling, and you should take the statistics and figure out how they apply to your current situation. The numbers only lie when we ignore them. If you are looking for ways to refine and tune up your recruitment and retention practice, there will be several opportunities to participate in our Becoming a Better Recruiter seminars throughout 2016. Join me for a one-day boot camp where we will bring these statistics to life and show you how to strengthen your organization in the process. Randy Wilburn is Zweig Group's director of executive search. Contact him at

This article is from issue 1145 of The Zweig Letter. Interested in more management advice every week from Mark Zweig, the Zweig Group team, and a talented list of other guest writers? Click here for to get a free trial of The Zweig Letter.

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.